A second chance for Pirin Wilderness

The Pirin National Park in Bulgaria was established on 18 November 1962. In that time it used to be a wonderful place with a great Wilderness. The main reason for protection was to preserve well-protected wild natural ecosystems and landscapes along with their plant and animal communities and habitats. The park territory expanded several times until in 1999 it reached its current size of 40 356 ha.

Simultaneously with the process of enlargement, the area became a subject of dramatic negative development. That happened not only outside the park, but also within the park territory. It seems that even international recognitions, such as the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983, the Biosphere Reserves under the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme, and Natura 2000 did not help. This negative development, particularly in the last 15 years left dramatic negative impact on the Pirin National Park.

Ski development and logging

The development of a large ski-centre inside the Pirin National Park caused logging of old growth forest. The quality of this forest was fitting to the European Wilderness Quality Standard. The exploitation of the unique forest and development of this large scale ski-centre were the main reasons why the Pirin Wilderness was not consider as a good candidate to join the European Wilderness Network in the previous years.

Damage is done, attitude changing

The damages done in the last decades have a big impact and are mostly permanent. However, the attitude of people is now changing. It results in massive public protests. A coalition of local and international NGOs recently won a court case against the government of Bulgaria’s plans to open Pirin National Park up to the new development and construction.

The Wilderness potential in Pirin

I know the Pirin area very well. The very first time I visited this area was at the end of 1970-ties. That was the time when Bansko was a small village at the border of the park with one ski lift in the parks’ development zone. Since then, the situation changed a lot. The European Wilderness Society is carefully folelowing ongoing developments in  Pirin National Park. Due to the recent court decision, the European Wilderness Society considers to assess and invite the Pirin Wilderness to join the European Wilderness Network in the near future. The first signals are positive, but it must be clear that the area of the Pirin National Park, and particularly the potential Pirin Wilderness, will not be consider for any further extractive use and development,

said Vlado Vancura, Deputy Chairman, European Wilderness Society.

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